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KEPA KORTA & JOHN PERRY. 2011.!

Critical Pragmatics: An Inquiry into Reference and


Communication. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
The fundamental idea put forward by Korta & Perry (‘K&P’ hereafter) in this lively
and stimulating book is that, in order both to understand how communication works
and to get a better handle on classic puzzles about reference, we need to recognize
that a sentence uttered in context has more than one set of truth conditions. Its refer-
ential truth conditions determine whether the utterance is true or false, but it does not
follow that the significance of the utterance to the hearer lies in those referential truth
conditions. Of more use may be the utterance’s ‘reflexive’ truth-conditions.
Reflexive truth-conditions differ from referential truth-conditions in that grasping
them does not require identifying the referents of singular terms. If I utter the words
‘She is here now’, you need to know who the referent of ‘she’ is and the time and loca-
tion of my utterance in order to grasp its referential truth-conditions. These are extra-
linguistic facts: your knowledge of English alone won’t deliver them up to you. How-
ever, your knowledge of English alone will tell you that my utterance is true if and only
if the female referred to by my use of ‘she’ is at the place of utterance at the time of
utterance. These are the reflexive truth-conditions of my utterance, in K&P’s terms.
They are ‘reflexive’ because, rather than being about objects and situations in the
world beyond the utterance, they are about the utterance itself. Often, K&P argue, it is
the reflexive truth-conditions of the utterance that allow the speaker to fulfil her goals.
Self-introductions are the most obvious example. Spoken by the author of this review,
(1) has the same referential truth-conditions as (2). Clearly, though, (1) is a more effec-
tive way of introducing myself that (2). According to K&P, the reason for this lies in
the reflexive truth conditions of (1), as given in (3). By choosing to refer to myself us-
ing ‘I’, I present myself to the hearer in a manner that enables him to get a useful
‘cognitive fix’ on me, qua the person he perceives to have uttered the sentence, so that
he is able to relate that person to any information he has in his mental ‘Mark Jary file’
(or, if he does not have one, to open a new file and store the perceptual information
he is receiving in that location).
(1) I am Mark Jary.
(2) Mark Jary is Mark Jary.
(3) The speaker of (1) is Mark Jary.
In choosing to utter (1) as a means of introducing myself, K&P argue, I am making
the best possible use of the means at my disposal to manage the roles that I and my
utterance play in the cognitive life of the hearer. Indeed, K&P’s contention is that
there is much to be learnt about singular reference by taking a pragmatic, utterance-
based perspective on singular terms. This is in contrast to the classic work on this top-
ic, from Russell and Frege through Strawson and Donnellan to Kaplan, which has
tended to factor out the utterance and concern itself with the sentence. In the debate
between referentialists and descriptivists, K&P side with the former, arguing that
many of the problems faced by referentialists can be seen in a different light if an ut-
terance-based approach to singular reference is taken. K&P’s pragmatic defence of
referentialism dominates the first half of the book: the first four chapters introduce

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310 BOOK REVIEWS

the topic and the technical machinery that K&P employ, while chapters five to eight
deal with demonstratives, indexicals, names and descriptions by appealing to various
types of utterance-bound truth conditions.
The latter half of the book is concerned with issues more traditionally located in
the domain of pragmatics. In chapter 9, K&P consider utterances such as ‘It’s raining’,
where, it has been argued, there is an articulated constituent specifying the location of
the precipitation, the debate being whether this is an indexical slot supplied by the
syntax or a purely pragmatically-supplied element.
In chapter 10, K&P introduce their notion of locutionary content, distinguishing it
from Grice’s notion of ‘what is said’ and from Searle’s notion of propositional con-
tent. Of particular interest in this chapter is the way that the utterance-bound reflexive
truth-conditions of an utterance can assist in conveying illocutionary force. K&P ar-
gue that the reason that an utterance such as (4) is better suited to undertaking a
commitment than (5)—which expresses the same referential proposition—is that the
reflexive truth-conditions of (4) (i.e. (6), roughly) present the agent of the act as the
speaker of the sentence—i.e. as one who can undertake that commitment; (4) also
places the deadline for completion in the future, thereby fulfilling the propositional
constraint on commissives that they must relate to a future act (Searle, Speech acts: an
essay in the philosophy of language. Cambridge: CUP, 1969). While (5) is also about the
speaker and also places the deadline in the future (at the time of writing), this infor-
mation is not encoded by the reflexive truth-conditions of (5). Consequently, (5) is a
less apt means of undertaking a commitment than (4), due to the cognitive burden it
places on the hearer, who needs to know both the name of the speaker and the date
of the utterance in order even to consider the possibility that (5) might be intended as
a promise.
(4) I will finish the review by the end of this month [uttered by Mark Jary in Au-
gust 2013].
(5) Mark Jary finishes the review by the end of August 2013.
(6) The speaker of this sentence will finish the review by the end of the month in
which the sentence is uttered.
In chapter 11, K&P employ a range of examples to argue that utterance-bound
truth conditions also play a crucial role in the communication of implicatures. This
position is put forward in greater detail in K&P (“Three demonstrations and a fune-
ral”, Mind and Language 21: 137-240, 2006), so I will not summarise it here. What is
new, however, is the moral that K&P derive from their observations. They argue for a
repositioning of Grice’s maxims of manner ‘from the periphery of Gricean theory’ (p.
138), on the grounds that the communication of implicatures depends not so much on
what is said, but on how it is said. In this spirit, K&P propose a ‘Maxim of manner of
reference’ (p. 136) enjoining speakers to choose a means of reference that provides
the hearer with the type of cognitive fix on the referent that will facilitate the inference
of implicatures.
In chapter 12, K&P relate their ‘critical pragmatics’ to other theories of utterance
content. Their approach is generally ecumenical, in that they find points of contact

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BOOK REVIEWS 311

with both minimalists and contextualists. With contextualists such as Recanati and
Relevance Theorists, they hold that there is a clear dividing line between the explicit
content of an utterance (i.e. ‘enriched what is said’ or ‘explicature’) and its implica-
tures, even if pragmatic reasoning is involved in the derivation of both. However,
K&P also hold that the various minimal propositions expressed by an utterance (viz.
various utterance-bound propositions) may have a role to play in its interpretation, a
position which K&P see as aligning them with authors such as Cappelen and Lepore
(Insensitive semantics: A defense of semantic minimalism and speech act pluralism. Oxford:
Blackwell, 2005) and Borg (Minimal Semantics. Oxford: OUP, 2004). K&P differ from
the semantic minimalists, however, in that they seek to examine how these minimal
propositions are employed by speakers and hearers in the communication of utterance
content. The book ends with an interesting chapter that seeks to tie together the au-
thors’ views on content with their view of utterance interpretation.
Written in a jaunty and engaging style, this book is well suited to those who want a
relatively straightforward introduction to ideas developed in Perry’s Reference and Reflex-
ivity (2001), and K&P’s “Three demonstrations and a funeral” (2006). However, the
book is much more than an introductory text. It is also an argument for a shift in the-
oretical perspective. Despite the influence of Austin and Grice, the figures of Russell
and Frege loom large in contemporary theorising about language. As K&P note (p.
162), these authors were largely concerned with removing ambiguity and nuance from
natural language, so that the pursuit of knowledge could be facilitated by the ability to
make precise, transparent statements. Although not working towards the same end,
much modern pragmatic theorising nevertheless mirrors this project in that it sees the
process of utterance interpretation as being, in no small part, geared towards specify-
ing the precise content of the explicit component of the speaker’s meaning, which
then serves as the basis for the calculation of implicatures (or for the rational recon-
struction of that process). K&P, by contrast, see the identification, by the hearer, of
the speaker’s intentions as being possible without identifying the explicit content of
her utterance. This is a very welcome move, as it encourages us to think about linguis-
tic encoding in different terms: not as a way of directing the hearer to the speaker’s
explicit content, but as a means of directing him towards the implicatures she intends
to communicate, so that he might thereby grasp the intended significance of her utter-
ance.
Mark Jary
University of Roehampton
m.jary@roehampton.ac.uk
DOI: 10.1387/theoria.11404

IAN JARVIE & JESÚS ZAMORA-BONILLA, eds. 2011. The SAGE Handbook of the Philoso-
phy of Social Sciences. London: SAGE Publications.
For the SAGE Handbook of the Philosophy of Social Sciences, editors Ian Jarvie and Jesús
Zamora-Bonilla assembled 39 contributions from some of the leading scholars of the
field. A remarkable number of contributions are from practicing scientists. This is tes-

Theoria 80 (2014): 309-318